Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Longing Is a Hunger

Longing comes in the evening, rising from its hidden place.

The house I built in grief shelters me. It keeps me warm through the days and nights, and I am grateful. Yet I hunger for more.

When grief first came, everything shut down. Windows were boarded up. Doors locked shut. The world went dark. My mind could not comprehend death or the dissolution of life. Emotions ran out of control. My spirit lost its footing because every truth, law and belief crumbled away under the weight of death’s relentless pressure. All senses went numb, creating a protected space.

The body has its own wisdom.

In his book I-Thou, Martin Buber speaks of longing, of the desire for such closeness in a relationship that boundaries blur and cease to exist, and there is unity of body, mind and heart. He was speaking of the relationship between believer and the sacred Other, but this longing for closeness extends to our personal relationships — between spouses, parent and child, and between close friends.

I often felt this closeness with Evelyn. Our life was like the slow tango where two people are so connected that they anticipate the other person’s next move. After she died, this closeness, this bond, was taken away, and grief’s pain was almost unbearable. I felt uprooted.

The house of grief’s longing is my body.

Survivors feel dead to the world. Not knowing what to think, with every emotion on speed dial, our body collapses on itself. Tears drain us into a shell where nothing gets in.

The body is often the first to recover, perhaps because it has to eat and sleep in order to survive, even though rest is sporadic, and food tastes like paste. As the senses return, we begin to notice the warmth of the sun, the spices in food. The mind and spirit take longer to come back.

And yet …

The house of longing is grief’s body; the house my body of lonely grief.

Friends came and their hugs rooted me back into the earth. Their presence and voices. Hot tea warm. The taste of cranberry-orange scones.

I often went to Yosemite when my heart and mind were numb. The stunning beauty and light of the mountains penetrated my shell, and hiking over its landscape reconnected my body to the earth. Where my body led, my heart and mind followed until they were ready to come back.

Being in the wilderness forced me to pay attention to the moment and to my physical surroundings, because the dangers of mountain lions and bears were real.

Hiking ten hours a day made me aware of my body’s needs. I was incredibly thirsty and hungry. My legs ached and cramped up. I was physically exhausted, but finally I slept well.

The scent of pine trees filled the fresh air. The sounds of waterfalls and cascading rivers floated across the meadows, and I could feel the strength of the earth beneath my feet. Being in nature grounded me at a time when everything else had been swept away.

Longing is a physical hunger.


  1. I get it, Mark, as you might imagine. My connection with nature was right off my porches at the birdfeeders and nesting boxes and on trails in the woods where I walked with my dog and felt grounded on this earth many times a day. My dog, more intimate in some ways that any person including family, helped me feel connected to life as a place to touch, watch, hear, sniff, and taste.

    1. That's beautiful, Elaine! Undoubtedly your dog was grieving, too, and yet still interested in the physical world, reminding you and leading you back into awareness of your own senses.